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Beginner's Guide to ... FAQs

Does the racing industry still baffle you? Not quite sure where to start? Here are some frequently asked questions that might help you get back on track:

How many races are there?
There are usually between 7-10 races scheduled on the day. Check the Racing NSW website closer to the date to find out how many races there are and what time the first race starts.

What is the parade ring or mounting enclosure?
The mounting enclosure is where the horses are paraded for the officials, the public and the horses owners prior to the race. The jockeys will mount the horses here before heading onto the track. After the race is run, the horses return to the enclosure and the jockeys dismount and take their saddles to ‘weigh in’. The winners return to the enclosure for photos and presentations (if any).

What is the Benchmark system?
The Benchmark system brings together the best elements and resources of modern regulatory handicapping, and private handicapping by form analysts working independently of Racing NSW.

The previous Ratings (handicaps) were superseded by a published BENCHMARK that denotes the weight each horse will carry at its next start, with each BENCHMARK point equalling half a kilogram.

Why do the horses start from barrier stalls?
The use of the barrier stall ensures a fair start for the horses, encouraging owners and punters alike.

In the earlier days of racing, the use of a chalk line and later a rope/strand barrier had numerous starting difficulties resulting in many false starts. The transportable barrier stalls were imported from the US to Australia in 1946 and have been in use ever since.

While they may appear daunting, young racehorses are introduced to the barrier stalls from a young age, practicing to ‘jump’ from them.

All racehorses are required to compete in an official ‘Barrier Trial’ which is monitored by the Stewards. Horses who trail satisfactorily are issued with a ‘barrier certificate’ which is a requirement of being allowed to enter in an official race.

How do you determine which stall they start from?
Stall numbers are randomly allocated to each racehorse by a computer system approved for that purpose.

For prominent Group 1 races, a public Barrier Draw may be conducted, in which owners are invited to draw numbers from a barrel, or pick mini statuettes to determine their horses stall number, whilst under strict supervision of the NSW Stipendiary Stewards.

Why are races different distances?
The distances at which a horse is most capable can vary by its age, fitness, physical attributes and pedigree. If a horse is just beginning a career or returning from a lengthy break, it may be entered in a short race to build up its fitness, and then gradually increase distance.

Do the horses always race against their same age and sex?
No. There are several types of races for horses, as described in the Beginners Guide to Racing. There are many races for horses of the same age and sex, which can help give horses a more level competition field.

Some races are considered OPEN and attract horses of all ages and sex, giving horses the chance to prove their ability against different classes of horses. An example of the various race restriction in Group 1 racing include:

  • The Golden Slipper is open only to 2YO
  • The Coolmore Classic is open only to Fillies and Mares (females)
  • The Doncaster is open to 3YO and up

How often do the horses race?

The schedule of a racehorse is often a very well timed and well prepared campaign. Depending on the goal of the trainer and the horse’s owners, a horse may race as often as once a week in preparation for a goal race.

In between ‘preparations’ a racehorse will be sent away from the stable and treated to a ‘spell’ or break in a paddock, helping to avoid or recover from injury. This spell can be for weeks or months at a time.

Do the horse always race clockwise?
The majority of NSW races are conducted in a clockwise direction, as in England. You may have noticed that all races in Victoria are conducted in a counter clockwise direction (for example the Melbourne Cup).

TIP: Horses who are trained in NSW and are preparing to race in VIC (and vice versa) can benefit from training in the opposite direction to get a feel for the different bend, prior to competing in a race.

Do horses wear special shoes when they race?
Yes, racehorses must wear approved race plates which are very light weight. Generally made of aluminium, each race plate must weight under 150 grams

Why does the same jockey wear different colors in different races?
Colours (also known as silks) are worn by jockeys to help distinguish each horse in the race. The racehorse owner designs and registers his own silks for all of this horses to race in, hence why each jockey will not always be wearing the same colours for every race.

Why is the jockey weighed after each race?
All jockeys must weigh ‘out’ prior to each race with their gear. The jockey is weighed out with their riding gear, race saddle, and a lead bag if required to hold any additional ‘weight’ a horse may be allocated to carry. After the race is concluded, the jockey must weigh ‘in’ with the same gear to ensure that the horse carried the correct advertised weight.

If all jockeys weigh ‘in’ at the correct weight they weighed ‘out’, then CORRECT WEIGHT is declared by the Stewards officiating that the results of a race is official

If a jockeys weighs in over or under their advertised weight after the race, the jockey and trainer can be penalised, and in certain circumstances, the horse may be disqualified from the race.

Are the horses also weighed?
Horses are not required to be weighed for racing purposes, it is only the jockey who is required to be weighed for each race, determining how much the horse will CARRY, not the combination of the horse and rider together.

Tip: Horses can weigh around 500-600kgs

Why don't heavier people become jockeys?
The less weight a racehorse must carry, the easier it is to run faster.

In most races the minimum weight is 54 kilos (including the saddle) means jockeys must be as light as possible to be able to ride the weight allocated to a particular horse. If a jockey is a little heavier, they are restricted by the number of horses they can partner.

Becoming too tall and/or too heavy is a common reason for jockeys having to retire from race riding.

Do you have a question still unanswered? Send us an email to and we’ll help you find the answer.

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